Cropredy's headliners are Seth for the younger crowd and Richard for the older

Fairport's Cropredy Convention 2009 review

published: Thu 20th Aug 2009

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Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th August 2009
Cropredy, nr. Banbury, Oxfordshire., OX17 1OO, England MAP
£82 for the weekend; camping £30; kids under 12 go free
last updated: Fri 10th Jul 2009

Friday brings us a beautiful morning - sun is shining, birds are singing and there is a bustle around the camping fields.

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In the arena Colvin Quarmby is first on stage at midday, Gerry Colvin enthusiastically greets the early crowd who have already staked out their positions. He asks "doesn't anyone wear a suit to a folk festival anymore?" Looking around the answer is No! If you wanted to acquire one you would be at a loss at this Folk Festival too – the stalls concentrated on goods from the East – shawls, blankets and trinkets together with a couple of Instrument and CD stalls. The band are entertaining with songs based on Gerry's unusual experiences of mental health and merchant banking.

BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winners have a dedicated slot at Cropredy and this year we have Megan & Joe Henwood a brother and sister act from Henley-on Thames. Megan plays guitar and sings accompanied by brother Joe on Saxophone to produce a well rounded fresh sound. Megan has a mellifluous voice which comes across magnificently – strong, mellow and sweet. After several beautiful songs performed together Megan invites her band out onto stage– these guys are not so young folk greats such as Barrie Barlow and Andy Crowdy of Jethro Tull and Peter Knight of Steeleye Span. The combination works superbly. Megan finishes off with a rousing plea to her generation to make waves which she will surely do herself. One to watch out for.

As the afternoon draws on the sun disappears behind a blanket of cloud and the breeze picks up so a chill falls across the arena for Scott Matthews. He is well heralded as an upcoming talent who worked with greats such as Robert Plant. Sadly his band's sound does not have the clarity of the Henwoods and is blown around in the wind making it droning and indistinct. He comes across as an unfortunate mixture of Nick Drake and James Blunt.

A younger crowd is gathered to the front of stage and they sway enthralled but the remainder of the audience shows signs of agitation. I suspect the older crowd at Cropredy is not his target audience and mid afternoon not his preferred slot. To relieve the apathy setting in I check out the Kids Area for you family folks which is well attended by the under 5 crowd and seems thoroughly supervised and enjoyable. Part of the area is dedicated to making something out of stickers and paper but I can't tell what, the other to various shows being put on by a theatre company whose name I can't discern. Between the Kids Area and the block of toilets a pair in period costume are offering Tudor Dancing Lessons which attracts volunteers and an audience having great with this a welcome distraction form the Matthews drone.

Mr Matthews having left the stage we now eagerly await AAdrian Edmondson & The Bad Shepherds who are expected to provide a more entertaining set than the last and straight off they do not disappoint. The piercing sound of uilleann pipes and a shout of "Breaking rocks in the hot sun" introduces a folked up version of the Clash's I fought the Law which earns the band a rousing reception. The concept is simple but very well executed– traditional folk arrangements of punk classics – 2 chords, a pipe and a fiddle. Having had a few decades to pick up the tunes most of the crowd has learnt the words and joins in with gusto.

Ade's crossover from 80s and 90s TV comedy to folk music scene is a in a different league to Phil Cool's. This may be because The Bad Shepherds are no novelty act, they feature ex Jethro Tull and Fairport man Maart Allcock and all Ireland Fiddle Champion Andy Dinan. Ade challenges us to guess the unguessable intro, only those who have seen this show before know its Kraftwerk's She's a Model but once the tune has settled it is clear. A flip around to the format sees All around my hat given the punk treatment "It's my fucking hat". The set finishes with Anarchy in the UK and a massive round of applause. Like Mark Radcliffe's Family Mahone set last year The Bad Shepherds twist on standard folk approach makes for a very entertaining Friday afternoon slot which sets us up for the evening to come in fine form.

Next up is John Jorgensen and his band. Not having heard his name before a consultation with the programme shows that he is an A list Session guitarist who went on a six year tour with Elton John. When he comes on stage dressed in a garish gold cape and brandishing silver glittered Telecaster can't help but wonder if he thinks he still is on tour with Sir Elton. These thoughts are soon dispelled, he's not just a backing player. The blistering first number would set most fretboards on fire. His playing is out of this world and clearly appeals to a large section of the audience.

For me it's a bit noodly but the show gets more entertaining as it progresses. John invites us to pretend he is a 14 year old girl – and not a 50 plus space cadet – whilst he sings a girl power anthem form his personal collection of banned songs. Soon we are rocking out marvelling at the faces he pulls as his fingers gallop up and down the guitar. He delivers a particularly intricate blues number which sees him leaning out over the edge of the stage working the crowd in front of him. The performance finishes off with Orange County Special a medley of different tunes including Wipeout and Pinball Wizard – this dude is a guitar wizard.

Film critic Mark Kermode's band The Dodge Brothers are up next singing skiffle throwback songs of transport and homicide. Mark acknowledges the challenge the sound engineers have dealt with changing from the all electric set of Jorgenson to the acoustic sound of double bass, washboard and guitar they are producing. Seems this changeover has not been completely successful as there sound does not penetrate the arena with any great impact. A song from 1902 is the highlight of their repertoire, the contrast from the previous act being so noticeable I can't say this band is a Cropredy success.

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Our compere is now Geoff Hughes - Eddie Yeates from Coronation Street- so it's difficult to keep a straight face as he announces the next act "Are you ready?" no you're Eddie! Are we ready for the first main act of the evening Richard Thompson - ex Fairporter and guitar genius – yes we are. The man stands centre stage militant in black with his standard beret adorned with a miniature LA Sherriff's badge and launches into his first song, Valerie. The sound is rich and his voice commanding the full attention of the people. Without the screen he would be a distant speck to those behind the firebreak but with it from front to back all can appreciate Richard's guitar style.

After an hour Mr Thomson has warmed up and as the black jacket comes off he looks less like the leader of the Cropredy Popular Front. After a couple of subdued "drinking songs" the set is rejuvenated by a version of The Who's Substitute which is amazing. After an hour and a half alone Richard brings on his gorgeous daughter Kamilla to accompany him on her pink guitar through the last few songs. Their voices blend exquisitely together. For an encore they do Wall of Death which finishes the set of perfectly. One man two hours, respect!

People start to pack up their chattels coolboxes, chairs and shelters to leave after Thomson's set which seems strange as lady's favourite Seth Lakeman is still to come. At nearly eleven Seth comes on and sets about livening up the crowd immediately with his fiddle and thump approach. This works well close up to the stage but not so well to the rear as there seems to be a problem with Seth's microphone so King & Country is marred by distortion and sound drop-out. Unperturbed he plows on with his tribute to Penlee lifeboat men and Blood Red Sky admirably supported by brother Sean and Benji Kirkpatrick.

The sound settles down and the bodhran comes out for that Mermaid song, he plucks the violin for a mellow and chilling ballad which I don't recognise. The set takes on the familiar tone and energy of a Lakeman performance for rousing versions of Poor Mans Heaven and Kitty Jay finishing with Race to be King. Everytime Seth delivers and here despite some sound problems and being overshadowed by the great Richard Thomson he pulls it off with style. Friday has had two headliners on Friday Seth for the younger crowd and Richard for the older.
review by: Ian Wright

photos by: Ian Wright

Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th August 2009
Cropredy, nr. Banbury, Oxfordshire., OX17 1OO, England MAP
£82 for the weekend; camping £30; kids under 12 go free
last updated: Fri 10th Jul 2009


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